Zambia's preparations for the crucial 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier against Uganda this weekend have suffered a major blow after an injury knocked out the African Champions' playmaker, Rainford Kalaba from the encounter.
And coach Herve Renard has summoned teenage midfielder, Shadreck Mayembe to the Chipolopolo camp in South Africa, joining another Under-20 player, Mukuka Mulenga.
Kalaba suffered a groin injury in the DR Congo side, TP Mazembe's 0-0 draw with Esperance of Tunisia in the African Champions League semi-final first leg on Sunday
and team doctor, Taha Messaoud ruled him out for at least seven days.
Messaoud told the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Sport that the injury was not too bad but Kalaba still needed a lot of care and that it would be difficult for him to play this weekend.
"He needs a minimum seven days to be back in training.
The injury is not too bad but he needs a lot of care. It will be difficult for him to play this weekend," Messaoud said.
Mazembe's Zambian-based official, Andre Mtine also confirmed Kalaba's predicament, saying the club medics assessed his injury and referred him to a local clinic for treatment.
Kalaba, who is among the four Zambians nominated for the 2012 African Footballer-of-the-Year award, remained behind in Congo as his teammates, Stoppila Sunzu, Nathan Sinkala, Hichani Himoonde and Francis Kasonde left for South Africa yesterday.
Mtine said Kalaba, who was one of Zambia's best performers in the first leg, underwent some treatment at a clinic in Lubumbashi yesterday.
"Rainford has a groin strain and our doctors assessed him and then referred him to the clinic for treatment," he said.
The fleet-footed star player, who was taken off on 62 minutes, will join his Chipolopolo colleagues at their Milpark training base in Johannesburg today to enable the Zambian medics to assess the gravity of the injury.
Kalaba told BBC that he was disappointed to miss the crucial match and hoped his teammates would get a positive result from Uganda.
"I am very disappointed because it's a crucial game for us. If we don't qualify, people back home will not understand. I just pray that the guys get a positive result in Uganda. I believe in them and I know they will do wonders when they go there," he said.
And Renard has roped in Mayembe into the squad shaping up for the Cranes,increasing the number of players called up for national duty to 26.
Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) spokesperson, Erick Mwanza said Mayembe and his Under-20 teammate Mulenga were expected to connect from Nairobi, Kenya to Johannesburg late yesterday.
He said FAZ were making frantic efforts to ensure the two players linked up with the rest of the squad on time.
The FAZ communications manager said the duo got delayed in Nairobi after the Under-
20 squad, returning from Mali where they lost 3-0 in the 2013 African Youth Championship qualifier, missed its morning flight to Lusaka.
Mwanza said Renard was expected to have all the ammunition at his disposal during
this morning's training session. He said all the players were expected at the camping site last night.
Renard said qualification to the 2013 AFCON finals was the target for the team.
"Qualification! Only this word in our mind," Renard said from Johannesburg yesterday.
The Chipolopolo will be carrying a 1-0 advantage to Kampala this weekend courtesy
of a Christopher Katongo strike and the team is said to be determined to deny Uganda an opportunity to grace the AFCON finals for the first time since 1978.
"The camp has started and this is the week for serious preparations. We will be strong enough for the Cranes after five days of intensive training," Mwanza, who left in the advance party for Kampala yesterday, said.
The Chipolopolo are expected in Uganda on Thursday, some 48 hours before clashing with the Cranes in the crunch tie.
Meanwhile, Uganda's preparations also switched into top gear following the arrival of the entire legion of foreign-based players.
Goalkeeper, Denis Onyango, captain Andrew Mwesigwa, Patrick Ochan, Emmanuel
Okwi and Hamis Kiiza reported to camp soon after arriving in Kampala and ensure coach Bobby Williamson's preparations did not suffer any derailments.
Strikers Geoffrey Massa and Brian Umony, who missed the first leg in Ndola due to injury, returned to the Cranes' squad.
Tickets for the match also went on sale in Kampala yesterday.